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Early in my career, long before the Internet, I assembled file folders on every environmental organization I had ever heard of -- their literature, fund-raising letters, annual reports, etc. I was unknowingly assembling a portion of what Richard Seireeni is calling, in his new book, "The Gort Cloud: The Invisible Force Powering Today's Most Visible Green Brands." The Gort Cloud is named after the Oort cloud, a field of stellar debris that orbits our solar system -- although its mass exceeds that of the earth, it is invisible to us.
If you've worked in the environmental field at any level, you're likely aware of this invisible network connecting millions of environmentally aware people. On one hand, it is the enforcer of credibility standards -- a watchdog against greenwashing. On the other hand, it is a partner, providing insights into consumer preferences, linking manufacturers to distributors to retailers, and being the ultimate sounding board for anyone marketing a product or service to the highly focused audience of the green consumer.
While huge consumer products companies rely on advertising (what Seth Godin calls "shouting at strangers"), start-up green companies reach out directly to the Gort Cloud, using one-on-one relationships with green academics, NGOs, certifying organizations, news outlets, trendspotters, distributors, and eco-conscious consumers to build their brands. Because everyone is connected by the common goal of sustainability and powered by the currency of transparency, start-up green companies can gain an edge over the titans whose advertising strategies are less effective every year.
The Gort Cloud has aspects of Web 2.0, viral marketing, crowdsourcing, and social media, but more than that, it is an amazing business resource for honest green companies. It delivers a market (and marketing partners) at a fraction of the cost of traditional advertising and with greater credibility.
In his book, Seireeni explains how 23 successful green companies (including Seventh Generation) built their brands using this invisible marketing force to reach the green community. To see a visualization of The Gort Cloud click here (pdf).